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Research Community

Here at West Rise we love learning!  Even the adults love learning!

We really value the place of evidence based research and training, and actively encourage our teaching staff to carry out and engage with action research within school, as well as take part in as much training as possible.  We also encourage staff to take part in independent study, as well as research and training from other fields.

Many of our staff have undertaken courses in areas of interest such as; Health, Nutrition and Lifestyle, Relax kids, massage, mindfulness, ASC and children’s yoga.

It is this evidence based research which helps us to deepen our understanding of the impact we have on the lives of the children we teach and keeps our knowledge as teachers up to date and relevant.  It also enables us to be confident that we offer best practice in everything we do, underpinning our approach to teaching, curriculum and behaviour management, as well as the development of positive human psychology and relationships.

As well as research taking place within the staff team, we also welcome researchers from outside of our school community.  We have taken part in a worldwide research project, as well as PHD and Masters level research from Universities in the area, culminating in a research partnership with the University of Sussex.

All of this together gives us a Research Community which really raises the profile of research and education at West Rise, and ensures that we can really offer the very best in current thinking and evidence based practice linked to our vision, values and aims. It also means that children can see that learning is a lifelong endeavour.

Please see below to find out what’s been going in our Research Community.

Most recently, Louise Muller, Acting headteacher, completed a Master of Science postgraduate degree at Buckinghamshire New University.  Her MSc awarded in 2020 is in Mental Health and Wellbeing in Education and secures our Wellbeing First approach at school with evidence based research.

Much of her academic writing and research already shapes and informs many aspects of our approach here at school, but the developmental research intervention she wrote as part of her post graduate dissertation is the most recent piece of action research that will take place in school. Entitled ‘A Safe Space to Talk’, the Mindfulness and Art Positive Psychology intervention will be used to help to teach children about their emotions and how to express them appropriately.

In 2019, we were approached by a PHD Student from the University of Sussex who was looking to carry out research about how teacher knowledge and understanding of the concepts of creative thinking and social disadvantage, and the pedagogical approaches that a teacher adopts in the light of this knowledge, accommodates,  enables or constrains creative thinking in Reception aged children.

The researcher came into school and held interviews with teachers and observed children at work and play. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the research came to a halt.  We are hoping to continue this research partnership in early 2021, so watch this space!

In 2019, we hosted a PhD student from the University of Brighton who carried out a research project to understand how children’s foot shape and size change as they develop and learn to walk, run, jump and skip.

In this project, the researchers looked to capture the shape of a child’s feet, using a specialist 3D scanner. This study aimed to describe and quantify children's foot development and to allow the researchers to take a 'small step' toward providing large scale and in-depth information to the greater public and foot doctors.  We look forward to seeing the results!

In 2017, we were invited to take part in the ‘The Ready for School’ project.  The research team piloted a music programme aimed at supporting the development of speech, language and communication in rising 5s.

Children from 6 pre-schools were selected to take part in the programme, many of whom were identified as requiring support to develop their communication skills. The children participated in 15 workshops from February to July 2017, consisting of music activities with content designed specifically to promote speech and language development, some free play time and story time.

During the course of the programme, pre-school and reception class staff took the opportunity to meet with parents to discuss transition to primary school. Phase 2, from September 2017 to February 2018, followed the children into their reception classes where they took part in another 15 sessions , this time with their whole class. The speech and language development of the children in the initial cohort was tracked using a developmental checklist. In addition, 5 from each school were selected to be assessed by a speech and language therapist at the beginning and end of the programme. Musical development was assessed using the Sounds of Intent in the Early Years Progression Framework (SoI-EY.) Parents, practitioners and teachers were also surveyed throughout the programme.

The children and staff at West Rise loved taking part in the project.  The research evaluation can be found here:

And here is a film about the project - Password: R4S

In 2018, we were invited to take part in an International Early Learning and Child Well-being study – exciting!

Children from across Reception and Year One were randomly selected to take part in the study which used fun activities to examine the social skills, empathy, memory and self-regulation of five year-olds, as well as their early skills in language, literacy and numeracy.

In total, 2,500 children from 191 primaries in England took part in a range of interactive stories and games delivered on tablet devices. Teachers and parents were also asked to assess children’s development in some aspects of social-emotional development.

West Rise children joined other children selected from across the world to take part and complete games and story-based activities with a trained administrator.  The data collected was then compiled into a study report.

It was such a privilege to be asked to take part in this study, the results of which were published in a report published in the OECD iLibrary.  

The report gives valuable insights in a number of areas, but four aspects really stood out.

First, children’s development across different areas– literacy, numeracy, mental flexibility, working memory and several aspects of social-emotional development – was found to be highly inter-related. This suggests that if children are doing particularly well, or indeed experiencing difficulties, in one area (numeracy, say), they may be doing so in others (such as self-regulation).

Second, consistent with previous early years studies, IELS found differences in development between groups of children, particularly in relation to socio-economic status. Eleven per cent of the sample had low birth weight or were born prematurely. The study found that these children had lower levels of emergent literacy by around 2.5 months of progress and lower working memory by around 3.5 months of progress, suggesting a rich opportunity for effective intervention at school and policy level.

Third, IELS confirms that children’s development benefits from an enriching home learning environment, and shows which aspects of that are particularly valuable. Reading to children at least five days a week was strongly associated with children’s emergent literacy development as well as their ability to identify others’ emotions (a key aspect of empathy) and their prosocial behaviour, and short, regular sessions were found to be most effective. While schools can’t directly affect the home learning environment, IELS provides strong evidence that supporting parents in their efforts to do so will pay educational dividends.

Finally, and on an inter-related point, IELS tells us that a low to moderate use of computers, tablets or smart phones – between one and three times a month – is associated with higher levels of emergent literacy than using them weekly or not at all. But parents told us that many five-year-olds are using them more often than this, and few hardly ever use them, suggesting that moderate use of digital devices is appropriate, as long as it does not get in the way of other valuable activities, such as conversing with children and reading them bedtime stories.

There is much more to be gleaned from the data collected during the study, and the NFER team is currently undertaking further analysis. This includes information on children’s persistence and physical development and how these relate to their development in other areas, due to be published later this year.